I have been working on the family of John Henry Smith, illegitimate son of John Wilkes, Lord Mayor of London, by his partner Catherine Smith and frankly I am tired of all the incorrect information on the web! I am hoping that family members will help getting the correct info and maybe we can find out what really happened.
Here is what I think we know: 1. John Wilkes had a son with his housekeeper Catherine Smith.
2. The son was named John Smith. He later asked to be called "John Henry Smith" so that he would get his mail while in India.
3. John Henry Smith was born Dec 10, 1762
4. John Henry Smith was acknowledged by John Wilkes, MP and educated by him. He customarily called John Wilkes his "uncle".
5. John Henry Smith became a cadet with the East India Company and went to Bengal, India in 1782.
6. John Aston Wilkes, Clockmakerwas born in Birmingham, Warwick, England on Feb 20, 1782.
The story I have seen is that John Aston Wilkes is the son of the aforementioned John Henry Smith, who had him withhis wife Ann Aston or Ashton and then went off to India. On his return he changed his named to "John Wilkes" and married Sarah Robotham and had several more children. Ann Aston supposedly had died in the meantime.
There are several problems with this story:
7: John Henry Smith remained in India until at least Nov 14 1792, which is when the last letter anyone has seen from him was sent. (As follows to John Wilkes, MP)
MY DEAR SIR, Bengal, Nov. 14, 1792. I HOPE this will find you in as good health as when miss Wilkes wrote her last letter to me. In mine to her I mentioned that we were in perfect peace : I do not know how long it may continue ; the Chinese have gone against the Napal rajah, and the latter has called upon us for assistance. His lordship has sent an ambassa- dor to him : God knows how it may turn out. No European has ever been in the rajah's coun- try : it lies on the mountains to the northward of Bengal. Should any troops be sent there, I shall apply to be sent with them : I hope it may take place, as I am very anxious to see his country.
" It is reported that lord Macartney is coming out here as governor-general. Should that be the case, I beg you will send me out letters of recommendation to him or to any one else that is coming, by which means I may get some appointment which may enable me to return home in a few years.
" I assure you there is not a man happier in India than I am. I have always made it a rule to pay a proper respect to my supe- rior officers, and I must say I have always met with politeness and attention in return. Wherever I have been I have always been invited by those in the civil line, who are rather nice in associating with officers. There are some new regulations coming out for the army, which we are happy to hear ; they are said to be very advantageous for the subaltern line. I hope our allowances will be increased ; for I assure you it is impossible on our present pay and batta to save any thing to signify. It would take 30 or 40 years to save 3 or 4000/. and then you must shut yourself up, and deprive yourself of every little amusement and comfort which is absolutely necessary in this country. Notwith- standing all this, there is not such service in the world; to you I am indebted for being in it, and for all the comfort I enjoy in it. May you meet with your due reward in this and the other world, is the daily prayer of, my dear sir, yours ever, affectionately,
8. There is a record of a marriage of a John Smith marrying an Ann Ashton on February 18, 1786 in St Phillip, Birmingham, Warwick, England. John Henry Smith was in India at this time. This however was 4 years after the birth of John Aston Wilkes. It is possible that these 2 (John Smith and Ann Ashton) were his parents but if so - why is his last name Wilkes? This John Smith cannot be the one who was in India. You can't be in 2 places at once!
9. Another issue - the John Wilkes that married Sarah Robotham apparently did so in about 1788 as their first child Sarah was born in Birmingham on April 13 1789 - while John Henry Smith was out of the country. The rest of John Wilkes and Sarah Robotham's children were born in Birmingham by 1793. John Henry Smith was not in the country at any time for their births. I think this is a pretty strong indication that the John Wilkes that married Sarah Robatham was NOT John Henry Smith son of John Wilkes MP
10. John Wilkes MP left John Henry Smith L100 when he died on May 21, 1795, so as far as we know he was not dead at that time, but we have no idea as to whether the money was ever paid to him or if he ever came back from India.
So what I think we have right now is this:
11. John Aston Wilkes was born Feb 20, 1782. "If" his father was named John Wilkes and if he married an Ann Ashton, and if this same John Wilkes who was married to Ann Ashton subsequently married Sarah Robotham, then "that" John Wilkes CANNOT be John Henry Smith, son of John Wilkes MP.
12: The opposite CAN be true: John Aston Wilkes can be the son of John Henry Smith and a woman who MIGHT be named Ann Ashton, but that John Henry Smith is NOT the man who was called John Wilkes and who married Sarah Robotham and had Sarah, Sarah Sophia, Samuel, Charles and Maria Wilkes by 1792. So if John Aston Wilkes is the half brother of Charles Wilkes (May 7, 1792)for instance and we could prove that, then I think we have definitive proof that John Henry Smith was not his father.
What do all you Wilkes researchers think? I hope I haven't confused you all. Just wait until we get to the really confusing part when the Wilkes family moves to Canada and the US!